So many things in central Spain go unnoticed; nothing more so than the small sleepy towns and their tourist sights. I can’t blame tourists from outside Spain for blitzing through Castilla-La Mancha. I mean, there are cathedrals to see, museums to explores, tapas to be had, and beaches to worship the sun from. I suppose some may stop in Toledo. And, really, I’m OK being one of the few foreigners visiting these parts, except that I want to set the record straight. Central Spain is a vast place, and one worth visiting.
My siblings have recently had the fun of coming with our family around the area, and we are always surprised at what we find. While none of these sights may be the Prado, adding them up can make for a truly Spanish experience…you know, where there are Spanish people.
- Molino Searching. With it being the 400th anniversary of Don Quixote’s publication, Castilla-LaMancha is the place to go to find those fabled windmills (molinos) the ingenious knight found so giant-like. Small towns like Mota del Cuervo, Campo Criptana, Alcazar de San Jaun, or Consuegra all have scenic molinos on their hilltops. Don’t worry about finding them; just drive into town and look up. If you are really in for the Quixote experience, explore the central squares in town for sculpture and art dedicated to the hidalgo or Cervantes. Visit El Toboso where Dulcinea’s house is on display.
Bethany, the kids, and I spent a full afternoon after school one day driving from hill to hill getting the best windmill shots and seeing the views of vineyards and olive groves.
2. Castle Ruins. There are hilltops dotted with ruins all over Castilla-La Mancha. Seems any high point was a good spot for a medieval overlord. Most are next to small villages and worth a wander. Alcala de Jucar is a well known option with a well preserved Castillo, but smaller places like Chinchilla de Monte Aragon have great castles and walkable villages. Penas de San Pedro features a massive mesa topped with crumbling fortress walls you can explore.
Tyler visited, so we did the fun and obligatory stroll through Alcala, but found a morning visit to Chinchilla quite fun. There is a bustling Tuesday morning market and lovely outdoor cafes in the central square. Bryan and some coworkers were out for a morning mountain bike ride, too, so we all met for a desayuno coffee and tostada. When Bethany came, we found ourselves alone at the top of the mesa amongst the ruins of Penas de San Pedro. It’s truly tourist-free in La Mancha!
3. Flamingo Hunts. Not the killing kind, but the search for flamingos in Spain is a pastime we have come to love since Avi is such a fan. There are quite a few salt lagoons in Castilla-La Mancha and in spring or summer they are full of birds! The Lagunas near Alcazar de San Juan are especially prolific, and those near Petrola are rurally beautiful. Both have bird blinds.
Bethany has always been a team player in the ‘mingo hunt, and joined us on our first venture to Petrola and also to the further lagunas at San Juan this past spring when she was down for the weekend.